Tales from Behind the Whites: Final Few Weeks of Pop-Up Thai Grill with Andy Oliver.

pic 1If you have been reading Articuleat over the last few months you may be aware of the pop-up Thai grill that has been commencing in Peckham’s Bar Story, located by the station, under the railway.

me and a fellow chef from the begging bowl have been hard at work with Andy Oliver cooking authentic Thai grill for the London masses. Overall the experience has been a huge success, with a long list of satisfied customers from Peckham locals, to food bloggers and foodies from all around London – I am also lead to believe that a couple traveled from Kent to experience Andy’s cuisine (now that’s customer commitment that should please any chef).

So anyway, I thought that it was worth having a round up of the last few weeks, including a look at the menu and a few anecdotes of the experience.

From the turmeric stained fingers, to the chili filled eyes, every aspect of Bar Story has been one to remember. Getting down and dirty into the processes and organisation necessary to pull off a complex oriental menu for a busy pop-up in London, has been a priceless experience. I can tell you now it’s not easy, and it certainly gets the blood pressure pumping. In the beginning questions jump into your head as you’re pulling 15 hour prep days on your only day off like; ‘will anyone turn up?’, ‘are we going to be ready on time?’, ‘are we insane to even be trying this?’ However, these questions swiftly become clear as soon as you get slammed with orders the minute the char-grill is hot, ‘yes, we are insane’.

The first week was enough to fluster the best of chefs. With orders flying in as they would on a busy weekend service at the begging bowl, with nothing but a small fold out table and ice buckets to serve from, it’s a lot to get your head around. However,keep your head up and your hands grafting and you’ll always get to a succesfull finish. I can safely say that the majority of food went out to a high standard, all the reviews show that customers were happy (despite a few maybe waiting a little too long). It’s nice to know that in between the running around in circles and dropping dishes on the floor we were still getting the job done to the high standard that we are all capable of. In all honesty after a few of the services we all looked like we had been dragged through a hedge full of Thai food backwards, I even remember contemplating that it would be easier to set fire to it all, rather than face the clean down. Jokes aside it was a breath of fresh air to know that we gave Andy’s food justice, even in the busiest of times.

After we knew what to expect from the initial few weeks (well by this I mean we learned to expect the unexpected) we became more and more prepared as each week came.

After our hectic first week we agreed to at least attempt to keep the menu relatively small, in order to make life easy for ourselves. In reality, this didn’t happen at all, with our penultimate menu boasting a range of 12 complex dishes (that’s a little ambitious for a pop-up grill, but it was incredibly fun). If any of you reading have worked with Andy Oliver then you will know that he strives for perfection with every dish. This being said every plate that we prepared at bar story was not an easy feat, leaving us all in some crazy, character building services.

To the left is a copy of our last menu at Bar Story. Due to popular demand we included the whole smoked duck, which was booked via Twitter days in advance of the event. In order to pull this dish off with our far from professional cooking space, a separate barbecue was needed. As we cooked the duck slowly smoked in the background within a cloud of lemongrass, pandanas leaf and coconut husk. After around three hours the duck came out crispy, yet succulent, with a rich golden smoky colour and flavour.

We also included a few one off dishes which pretty much sold out before we even got the chopping boards out. The Yum Chakram (prawn and samphire salad) was one of these, consisting of mint, coriander, samphire, Thai shallots, deep fried shallots and grilled prawns. The other was the Ngop Pla (red curry marinated skate wing wrapped in banana leaf), this dish is a bit of a show stopper. Firstly the red curry paste is cooked out and seasoned with a sweet and salty balance, once cooled the skate wing is then coated in the paste and wrapped within a banana leaf. As the package is grilled, the intense heat of the char-grill is deflected from the fish by the banana leaf, allowing the fish to steam within. To serve, the package is then opened and garnished with coconut cream, julienne kaffir lime leaf and birds eye chilli – I’m sure anyone lucky enough to try it that day would agree, this is a one to remember.
These last few months have been an awesome experience and given me a taste for the pop-up world. I can safely say that I am excited to try a few more in the future. For me, the pop-up marks an evolution in contemporary cuisine, allowing chefs to try new things in different ways, attracting customers in a unique way. Whether you are trialing dishes, experimenting with ingredients, or just plain boasting the pop-up offers an arena for chefs to flaunt their stuff. Many of the people that happened to stumble across our grill at Bar Story may never have even thought of eating some of the ingredients that ended up in their mouth – this excites me. Keep an eye out on Articuleat to keep up to date with what has been going on behind the whites in my world.

I would also like to take this time to wish Andy Oliver the best of luck with opening his own restaurant, which I am incredibly excited to see happen. If you would like to find out more about Andy check out his blog, ‘The Cook’s Broth’, or find him on Twitter.

Andy delicately char-grilling in the kitchen

Andy delicately char-grilling in the kitchen

Thanks very much for stopping by at Articuleat and I hope you have enjoyed your stay. I always look forward to your feedback so please don’t hesitate to get in touch for any reason whatsoever – I will reply as swiftly as possible.

See you next time,

Eat Well,

Sebbyholmes

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